Thursday, July 14, 2016
Hero Cop Calls Veterans ‘True Heroes’
BINGHAMTON — Niagara County Sheriff’s Deputy Joseph Tortorella, who was being honored Thursday as the New York State American Legion’s Police Officer of the Year for stopping a gunman in Wheatfield last year, turned the tables on a convention of Legionnaires and proclaimed:
“You guys who are veterans are true heroes… I can’t thank you enough.”
The opening day of the 98th annual state Legion convention, being held July 14-16 at the Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton, featured a number of awards, plus action by the Legion delegates to better assist returning service men and women.
Deputy Tortorella had confronted a gunman who had shot and wounded his parents at their home, preventing him from threatening the safety of students at a nearby elementary school. The deputy shot the man three times outside the house, but the gunman kept firing. Tortorella was hit in the chest, but was saved by his bullet-proof vest. Eventually the shooter took his own life. For actions credited with preventing a greater tragedy, President Barack Obama awarded Deputy Tortorella the Medal of Valor this past May.
The deputy wasn’t the only one to hurl expressions of gratitude at veterans.
“Thank you for your service,” said Binghamton Mayor Richard David. He went on to note that his city responded to First Lady Michelle Obama’s call to end veteran homelessness by identifying 2,000 homeless veterans in the area, finding them places to stay, and now working with the VA and federal government to plan a $20 million VA clinic in the heart of the city.
“I can’t thank you enough… for the sacrifices you and your families have made,” said Broome County Executive Debra Preston.
“Thank you for being a constant example… of service to our country and of (its) ideals,” Greater Binghamton Chamber of Commerce President Jennifer Conway said, noting that her grandfather was on the beach at Normandy in World War II.
Law and Order Awards
Incoming Law-and-Order Chair Dave Reilly announced the American Legion Department of New York law-and-order awards. In addition to police officer of the year, the honorees are as follows:
— Caledonia Fire Chief John Murray, honored last year as Firefighter of the Year for coordinating a multi-agency response to one of the worst fires in the history of Livingston County, received a regional honor from the National American Legion. He was named New England Firefighter of the Year.
— Samual Fuller is Firefighter of the Year, recognizing his service to the residents of DeRuyter in Madison County as a 51-year member of the DeRuyter Volunteer Fire Department.
— Angela Hunter of Alexandria Bay Fire Department is EMT of the Year. She was cited for her campaign to educate the public about the life-saving impact of AEDs and to get them into more public and business sites.